ST. PETERSBURG — A Palm Bay man suspected of abducting his young son from a supervised visit Saturday may have escaped to the water in a 32-foot sailboat, authorities said Sunday.
Police think Paul Martikainen may have taken his 3-year-old son, Luke Finch, aboard the sailboat, which was at the Salt Creek Marina at 107 16th Ave. SE in St. Petersburg, said Cocoa Police Department spokeswoman Officer Barbara Matthews.
"We found out (Martikainen) had a boat there and people saw Paul and Luke in a dinghy going out to a boat," Matthews said.
Finch was reported missing Saturday afternoon after he disappeared from a Cocoa park during a supervised visit with his father. Martikainen, 35, was able to slip away from the supervisor sometime after noon.
An Amber Alert sent out Saturday evening said Martikainen was thought to be traveling in a green 1995 Ford Explorer with tag number 142KEA. Shortly after news of the alert ran on local news broadcasts, a caller told authorities that the vehicle was at the marina, Matthews said.
St. Petersburg police found the Ford and impounded it. They learned that a friend of Martikainen bought the boat in October.
Witnesses at the marina said they saw Martikainen and the boy get into the 32-foot Bristol sailboat, Matthews said.
It was recently painted battleship gray, Matthews said, possibly to conceal the boat on the water. That means the abduction could have been planned in advance, she said.
The Coast Guard in St. Petersburg was assisting with the search on Sunday, said spokesman Petty Officer Robert Simpson.
Martikainen, Finch's non-custodial parent, was ordered to have supervised visitation because of previous allegations of abuse against the boy, Matthews said.
Matthews said the child's mother is "afraid … but very hopeful."
"Our goal is his safe return," she said.